The job litmus paper test

In the first post of this 5 part series, I shared my thoughts on there not being a perfect career for everyone. So if there isn’t a perfect career out there for you, and therefore any job can be a step into a fulfilling career, how do you structure an approach that at least decreases the risks of falling into the wrong job, and increases the odds of finding a right one?

Although you don’t know which job or career will give you job satisfaction yet, you know that the end goal is job satisfaction itself; however the bridge that gets you there is still indistinguishable.

Job litmus paper test

Do you remember litmus paper tests back at school? That slip of paper the teacher dipped in random solutions to test its pH scale – if it turned pink, it was acidic; if it turned blue, is was alkaline. A job litmus paper test does the same sort of thing when it comes to testing out a potential job or career.

In essence the components that make the job litmus paper test are:

Coincidentally* I wrote about these 3 elements individually in the previous 3 posts. This concept is nothing new and I’m not claiming this to be the one best way. I am however suggesting that the job litmus paper test helps you decide your steps before you take them in an unconventional way compared to other advice out there.

You see, when you don’t know what you want to do but you want to build momentum towards job satisfaction, this job litmus paper test acts as a decision maker against unknown and indefinite variables increasing your chances to job satisfaction. It may not help in determining the right job for you but it will certain determine if a job is right for you.

Career Venn diagram

A sucker for a graph, I suggest using something like a Venn diagram, the idea being that a specific overlap of your unique formula, preferred working culture and professional motivation will bring to light a good career choice. There have been a number of theories that correlate to this concept but the issue I personally found with these is that they suggest the diagram is a sure way to pinpoint a career for you…

What happens if you aren’t aware of a specific career is in existence? If becoming a thermal fluid dynamicist is a perfect career for you, would you have been able to identify such an obscure and potentially unknown job from using the diagram?

Like a lot of people, my early working life consisted of being incredibly frustrated with the question ‘what career is for me!?’. It was only after I saw my current role advertised that I was able to compare it to my diagram; a combination here, and a combination there and lo and behold I saw a winning combo.

But, in my first post in this series, I poo-pooed the concept of the Venn diagram. What gives? Well, two things about the Venn diagram concept are:

  1. It only works in retrospect – it’s easy to fit specific skills, culture and goals (while conveniently disregarding the rest) into a fulfilling job;
  2. It only works when you stumble upon a job that meets the majority of the strongest elements within your diagram, and you can place these into the requirements of the role.

I could only see that my job was the manifestation of specific elements from my Venn diagram after I had seen the job description. I don’t think I could have easily concocted my job using the Venn diagram before I had seen it advertised.

Don’t get me wrong; when constructing your Venn diagram, you may well see a blatant career in front of you. By all means roll with it! That’s fantastic news! But this may be just one out of a few possible careers, some you’re not aware of or familiar with.

And this is why it helps those who haven’t any ideas on what they would like to do.

How to use the test

The biggest use of the job litmus test before finding a good career is that, although it might not highlight your choices, it will certainly narrow down your choices. For example if you want to work in a progressive field that allows some sort of movability across specialisms to do with numbers, all within a corporate environment, it would be safe to narrow your search towards banking, finance, accountancy or risk management, for example.

If you like to help people, to train and motivate them but in a relaxed environment and be seen as someone who independently chooses their career’s direction, you can narrow your choices to learning and development, freelance training (be it fitness, business, etc.), management consultancy or further education.

When you get to see a number of patterns of fields that take your fancy, you can then begin to make some enquiries. Begin to scope the fields you want to explore, to really get an understanding of what they entail. You can do this by:

  • Talking to people you know who are in similar fields
  • Reaching out to people you don’t know in similar fields via Twitter, LinkedIn or blogs
  • Researching job profiles through career websites like National Careers Service , Prospects, Target Jobs, Total Jobs, and My World of Work to name a few
  • Researching job profiles through good old fashioned books like The Book of Jobs, The A to Z of Careers and Jobs, Careers 2018 Directory and What Color is your Parachute. These aren’t affiliates, just hearty recommendations.
  • Watching video interviews of people who work in a number of sectors – a simple online search will bring up loads of these!
  • Contacting professional bodies and institutes that oversee their respective sectors to see what it entails and if they can get you in contact with their members
  • Searching courses related to potentially interesting sectors and understanding the module breakdown of topics
  • Contacting HR departments, specifically the recruitment teams, of companies that interest you or are related to potentially interesting roles. Making yourself known to these will also get you on their radar should any positions come up
  • Contacting recruitment agencies who can tell you more about specific roles and companies that pique your interest. Again, you’ll end up under their radar
  • Looking at job descriptions and what skills and attributes they are looking for
  • If you get the opportunity, job shadowing or taking up secondments to test out interesting jobs.

This step can and will seem tedious but it is worth the effort and time investment. When it becomes exciting and interesting, you know you’re onto something good.

Perseverance is key at this important stage and you might become obsessive if you don’t get any instant results. Just keep referring back to your diagram and make sure your efforts are in line with what you want.

When you do become more confident in the direction you want to go or specialising in a particular sector or way of working, begin your job search. The whole point of this concept though is always look back on your litmus paper test, really check to see if the job or career you’re looking at fits with your formula, preferred culture and professional motivation.

It is likely that although you might not be instantly ready to take up a perfect job or career when you see it, it will be the spark of inspiration you need to start developing the required skills and attributes, and if necessary the relevant qualifications. This process itself will eventually make your search more focussed on elements that haven’t been eliminated from previous litmus tests and you may end up, by process of elimination, getting a Eureka! moment on which sector you would fit well into.

Do keep in mind throughout the process that if you have an idea of what you want to do, and you know you’ll be really good at it, explore the option of a side-hustle or setting up your own business. They’re topics worthy enough of posts of their own, which I will be writing soon, but in the meantime spend some time on looking into the really interesting world of entrepreneurship.

I sincerely hope that the idea (and it is only that) of testing interesting roles, careers and sectors against your job litmus paper test has inspired you to realise there is another way of getting closer to finding job satisfaction. I also hope it has quashed any deflation after another idea that there isn’t a perfect career for everyone, but instead a spectrum of possibilities based on varying combinations of your Venn diagram.

This is the last of a 5 part series of posts on discovering how to find job satisfaction. If you missed the first four, you can find them here: A secret about finding your perfect career; Too many interests to choose a career; 6 signs of toxic and healthy work cultures; and Professional motivation.

 

* Not coincidentally

 

Professional motivation

To determine your end goal when you don’t know what career or job to go for, you need to think about the sort of life you want at your career peak, or when you consider you’ve achieved what you have wanted with your career. The beauty of this exercise is that this can be done regardless of the sector, so you not knowing what sector you want to work in doesn’t need to play a part in this. Instead, you can assess what is your professional motivation.

This peak need not be retirement, nor the point at which you haven’t anything further to add. It is your own version of having really made it.

In the previous two posts, I talked about finding your own unique formula and how to spot the signs of a toxic and healthy work culture so that you can begin to understand the skills and experience you want to utilise and the working environment in which to use these. In my opinion, the third and final element of reaching job satisfaction is knowing your professional motivation.

What is professional motivation?

Professional motivation is the success you want to achieve in your career – no one can tell you what it is or what it should be, as it’s personal to you.

To one person, it might be having their own office (regardless of status, so either CEO or running a business from home for example).

To another it might be to do the best they can at work without jeopardising family life.

To another, it might be to be seen as thought leader.

To another it might be earning a substantial amount of money so he or she can retire early or work less hours.

To another it might be to get the right balance between work and home life by working flexible or part-time hours so they can regularly sing at weddings.

To another it might be to work across a number of interesting sectors over time, not specialising in anything in particular but satisfying his or her multiple interests.

It’s personal to you, it’s what you want out of your career, not what is ‘expected’ of you. Multiple promotions to more senior positions isn’t a success for a hobbyist boat modeller if he or she doesn’t have the time to make model boats if their career zaps all their time and money. As I mentioned in a post about the importance of having multiple interests, indulging in hobbies, the things you find enjoyable regardless of profit/loss, I believe plays a big part in professional motivation. These skills and extracurricular activities all contribute to your specific set of skills that you can bring to your whole life, including your career.

A very good book ‘Understanding Emotional Intelligence’ by Neilson Kite and Frances Kay defines motivation eloquently:

Motivation can be defined as an internal condition that triggers behaviour and gives it direction. It energises and directs goal-oriented behaviour.

This can be applied to all manners of motivation, whether it’s quitting a bad habit, starting to write a book, or working towards job satisfaction. Knowing what motivates you will help you align your actions and behaviours to what you really want.

How to find your professional motivation

Understanding other people’s successes will give you a first-hand perspective of what success feels like to them. This doesn’t mean you will feel the same, but learning what it took to get them where they are, the hurdles they had to jump, the very significant (but not at the time) small wins throughout their career, should begin to inspire you. I delve more into this in my next post, but for now, it’s important to ask yourself the right sort of questions to find out what stokes your fires, how do you want to be remembered, and what will make you satisfied with your career come the time you retire.

The questions below should begin to get the cogs moving:

  • Do you want to have helped people?
  • Do you want to have inspired people?
  • Do you want to be a thought leader? If so, why?
  • Do you want to be an expert in your industry?
  • Do you want to have made a big professional and/or interpersonal impact in every place you worked?
  • Do want to have membership to a professional body? If so, why?
  • Do you want to have improved how people work?
  • Do you want to have improved how the organisations you worked for carry out their work?
  • Do you want to have contributed your thoughts, opinions and skills to projects, or be part of the team that implemented the projects?
  • Do you want to have managed people? If so, why?
  • Do you want to have led or be given direction and serve?
  • Do you want to have included your work in your personal life for example enjoy activities outside of work that relates to your industry, or do you want to have a strict separation?
  • Do you want to have a stronger emphasis on your home life?
  • Do you want to have a stronger emphasis on your career’s sector? If so, why?
  • Do you want to have a stronger emphasis on flexibility in terms of work pattern or types of organisations? If so, why?
  • Do you want to have a stronger emphasis on your extracurricular activities and hobbies? If so, why?
  • Do you want to have a stronger emphasis on the social aspect with your career, be it with customers and/or colleagues? If so, why?
  • Do you want to earn a lot of money? If so, why?
  • Do you want to have autonomy or work under clear instructions? Why?
  • Is status really important to you? If so, why? If not, why?

Make sure to really pay attention to this exercise and think hard yet instinctively to the questions, and any follow up questions you might ask yourself. The exercise only works if you answer truthfully, not in a way that you think you should answer, or if your answers are driven by your ego.

Do you break out into a cold sweat at the thought of responsibility but think you should be pushing yourself? That’s completely fine, responsibility isn’t your thang. Are you really motivated by making tonnes of money, even though you consider it greedy? Who cares, you’d like to financially secure while having the finer things in life.

There are no right or wrong answers…..well, the only wrong answer would be one that is based on something you think you ought to answer, not how you really want to answer.

Be sure to also do this exercise when you’re in a good mood and not thinking too negatively about work; negativity will skew your perception and a lot of the answers might end up being somewhere along the lines of ‘I don’t care as long as I get out of that hell hole!’.

Take your time and really dig deep into the depths of your true motivation. Having as much clarity on this, alongside your unique formula and preferred work culture, will give you everything you need to help direct you to job satisfaction.

And I will reveal how to go about this in my next post #Cliffhanger

This is the fourth of a 5 part series of posts on discovering how to find job satisfaction. Next week, I’ll be talking about how to use the three elements (interests, culture, and motivation) in an unconventional way to reaching job satisfaction.

 

Too many interests to choose a career?

Have you ever found it hard to choose a career because you just have so many interests? Or you’re frightened that you’ve gone from obsessive hobby to the next, you’re hesitant to commit to a single interest in case next month you would have moved onto something else? Have people often commented that you have an eclectic set of skills and ‘there’s no end to your talents’?

This can be frustrating for the fellow avid doer. We have the energy to devote our efforts into something that will build a flourishing career, but with so many interests, most seemingly completely unrelated, choosing one proves difficult. Moreover, the fear of choosing the wrong one is just as bad.

I spoke about how there is no perfect career for everyone in my last post so it’s important to remember that there is no right way about finding job satisfaction, or in other words, there will never be a perfect solution as it doesn’t exist so therefore mustn’t be ventured for.

So this should give you more room to play with your multiple interests, the number of potential jobs out there that will satisfy you.

Multipotentialites

What better way to begin than to explore the concept of Multipotentialites. For those who aren’t familiar, this is a term and way of thinking developed by Emilie Wapnick who founded the website Puttylike. The ‘Start here’ page, for obvious reasons, is a really good starting point for people with many interests to explore.

Multipotentialites, Emilie explains, are people with multiple interests and creative pursuits. They have no chosen career but instead like to explore as many of their interests as they please. They are also known to learn a new skill or interest, become obsessive about it (it literally takes over their life) and then some time later (a week, a month, a year…) the interest is no longer interesting and they move onto a new creative pursuit.

Now without knowing this concept and the basis that this sort of behaviour is OK, a lot of closeted Multipotentialites will be beating themselves up for flitting from one interest to the next, frustrating not just themselves, but family and friends around them who can’t keep up.

Knowing this inspiring concept has made my transitions from one interest to the next incredibly natural and guilt-free, so I thoroughly recommend hopping over to the website…after you’ve carried on reading this of course.

Indulging in multiple interests

There seems to be an apprehension for indulging your multiple interests especially when you’re determined to focus on your career, but by denying yourself to do this, and explore even more potential interests, you’re not honing the particular set of skills that are wholly unique to you.

Only you have the specific level of competence in a specific combination or related and unrelated skills and hobbies.

Your personal formula

I believe your personal set of skills and competence, or your personal ‘formula’, is the very thing that separates you from the rest when it comes to choosing, perfecting and advancing your career. I talk a lot about transferable skills, so it won’t come as a surprise to you if I said that transferable skills from each of your interests could have a place in devising the career that is uniquely you, plays to your strengths, your weaknesses, your interests, your motivation, your reason to get up in the morning…all of these things that help people love their jobs and in turn progress professionally. This unique formula is one element that creates job satisfaction.

To put it into context, Bob (fictitious) dawdles between a number of jobs that tickles his multiple interests that are seemingly unrelated. He had a try at accountancy, music engineering, law, decoupage, and internal communications. Some might think that Bob is fickle and that he just goes from one job to the next that caters to his multiple interests but doesn’t really help him build a solid foundation on which a fulfilling and progressive career can be built upon.

Sure, Bob is a bit lost and can’t seem to get an ‘A-ha!’ moment where he’s truly found job satisfaction.

But the thing about Bob is, he’s been creating his personal formula. It might be a hodgepodge of skills but come the time he knows what he wants in life, what he wants out of a career, and how to indulge in all of his interests, he has a unique formula that could give him a competitive edge at an interview.

Bob’s formula has profiled him as:

  • Accurate with numbers
  • Attention to detail
  • Creative and capable of thinking outside the box
  • Highly computer literate
  • Intelligent
  • Willing to learn new skills
  • A strong communicator
  • A strong collaborator
  • Eager
  • Not afraid to go for what he wants

Hopefully Bob will figure out what he wants to do with his career, and when he does, he can add qualifications to the formula he has already developed. There might come a time when his certain elements from his formula combine to make him a super-suitable candidate for the job that has seemingly been made for him.

Having multiple interests does not mean you have to pick your favourite and run with it, neglecting the others.

On the contrary, if you have a blatant favourite and you really want to take that off, then that is absolutely fine, but keep a finger on your other interests, even at pastime or hobby level. This helps keep your formula up to speed and keeps it unique. It also means you get more satisfaction out of life in general.

By doing something you enjoy in your spare time, it helps you separate work from home life, the mental or physical muscles you use at work and the ones you use at home. ‘Variety is the spice of life’ they say.

This reflects the danger of falling into the misconception that making money out of each and every interest leads to job satisfaction, or ‘following your bliss’. It’s important to remember that if you happen to enjoy doing something for free, there is no automatic assumption you’ll enjoy doing it for money. For example, as a foodie, I absolutely love to cook, but I couldn’t do it as a job. It’s something I do to unwind from work, an enjoyable hobby that doesn’t have any professional pressure.

I took this same approach when I realised I wanted to start a blog about career development. I’m an HR professional and love all things HR. I could’ve easily started an HR blog but I chose specifically career development because, as well as wanting to help people like me progress professionally, it’s also something I’m really interested in.

So while I develop my skills as an HR professional at work and through CPD (continuous professional development) I get to develop my skills as a blogger and sort of career coach-y person (is that what I am?), on top of the other interests I have. I’ve since gone on to find many elements of HR and career management overlap and one feeds into the other. Even if they didn’t overlap, indulging in my multiple facets that make me me, means I’m forever strengthening my unique formula.

But is there a way of making money from a number of your interests?

Portfolio career

Portfolio careers are essentially working a number of part-time roles, usually 2 or 3 at a time. Not only can this way of working mean you will never have a monotonous week, or ever have to choose one career aspiration to follow, it’s also considered to be a safer way of working in terms of job security. You lose a job? That’s fine, you have two others to fall back on.

Portfolio careers are a better way of networking than if you remained in one job, especially if each of the jobs were in different fields. Just think of what this social asset does to your personal formula!

It does have its pitfalls though, for example making sure schedules are synchronised and switching from one working culture to another all the time can be confusing, but it is an option to consider, a popular one at that.

So please do not worry if you have so many interests that they’re confusing you to the point of frustrated inertia. It’s such a good thing having so many interests and experiences, and it’s a case of deciding how to use these to build a career, and life in general, in the way that suits you.

This is the second of a 5 part series of posts on discovering how to find job satisfaction. Next week, I will be talking about how working cultures can help you in your quest, and the signs to look out for.

 

 

 

A secret to finding your perfect career

Are you frustrated with the unending struggle of figuring out what you should be doing with your career? Too many interests, too many options and no idea where to begin? Or you just don’t feel strongly enough about any particular field, subject or type of vocation that you feel like you’re moments away from going eeny meeny miny mo? 

Is there a way to finding out your perfect career?

No.

But is there at least a perfect career for each person!?

No.

….Does this give you relief? ‘At last the struggle is over!’ Or does this make you even more frustrated because time and time again you’ve been promised the contrary?

Allow me to expand a bit on this. By all means this is not a negative view on the hot topic of discovering what you should be doing with your career, on which there are thousands of books, blogs and so forth. I have read a large number of these but I did not discover my ‘true calling’ by doing so.

This is my own perspective on the topic and should hopefully bring a little relief that there is no one way for finding out what is your perfect career – you no longer have to frantically search for an answer as the answer does not exist. Indeed the question is superfluous.

Analogy time!

An analogy, if you will, for food for thought (pun intended…you’ll see in a bit). Imagine if you’re looking for the perfect weekend dinner (see). You want a go-to dish that you want to cook every Saturday that will need to meet a number of criteria:

  • It must be tasty (in job terms, it needs to scratch a vocational itch)
  • It must be easy to cook, or at least easy to learn how to cook (it uses previous experience. ‘Easy’ is relative to the amount of interest you have in it, for example a someone with a natural flare to be a doctor won’t necessarily find the medical exams easy, but it’s easy for them to be determined to study for them)
  • It needs to involve the utensils you have (the skills you have)
  • It shouldn’t take a long time to cook (not compromise your free time)
  • It mustn’t be too uninspiring so you won’t get bored of it (be stimulating over time)

Now, to discover this perfect dish, do you think a personality test will give you the one correct answer? Or if you spoke to a professional chef with 5 Michelin stars, they will give you the one correct answer? Or if you read dozens of recipe books to learn about all the dishes available and the first dish you choose, after careful and lengthy assessment, would without doubt the best dish for you? Or by choosing all of your favourite ingredients, combining these with your experience and utensils, you will reach a culinary ‘ikigai’, the centre of a perfect Venn diagram?

Is this really achievable? Hypothetically, lets humour that the answer is ‘yes’ and the perfect dish for you came out as chorizo, olive and mushroom pizza. You might think to yourself you’ve hit the jackpot and you have finally, yes finally, found your perfect Saturday dish. Nothing can beat this.

Until you travel to Italy and try their pizzas and it’s better than your perfect Saturday dish. What did all that time mean when you’ve researched, did the homework, spoke to the professionals – all the things you were told to do to find the best Saturday dish – only to have all the effort gone awry with this new Italian spanner in the works.

Would you apply this logic to find the perfect job? Personality tests, experts, books and assessments? Yet there’s so much out there saying this way is the only way to find the perfect job. In times of desperation, it’s easy and convenient to believe them. It’s a reflection of our avid doer spirit; it’s a problem that we want to solve and we’re more than willing to use as many methods and techniques to get the answer. But it feels that bit more frustrating when an answer is promised but not reached.

Personally, I found it satisfying knowing that there isn’t a perfect career for me.

But I love my job. I find it interesting, uses my experience and skills, with plenty of room for development and progression fueled by my own professional motivation. I feel I’m making a difference and scratches my vocational itch. The people I work with are the best and the working culture suits me and my personality. On paper, this is the perfect career for me. So why isn’t this the perfect career for me?

Because perfection is time-sensitive and specific to my current life circumstances right now which include the extra things I do in my free time, for example addressing my other interests in my leisure time (like blogging!) that my job doesn’t meet. I’m not saying that in time I will go off the job. But who’s to say a couple of years down the line I’m offered a promotion I hadn’t thought about, and that is way better than the job I’m in now but is in a slightly different direction or niche? That therefore doesn’t make my current role perfect as I would have found something better.

Do you have a preference to loving your job or having the best career specific for you? Does either one provide more satisfaction than the other?

In my opinion, I don’t think so, but the former is a lot more achievable, realistic and tangible than the latter. That’s why I think the question shouldn’t be ‘what is my perfect career?’ but should be ‘how can I love my job?’

So what do you do?

There are four types of people who get their job satisfaction right:

  1. They’ve known all along and literally made it their mission to be what they want based on their personal interests eg a musician might have picked up a guitar at the age of 5 and couldn’t put it down. Those who say they would love to play an instrument but have never given it a go are not musicians. They would have had an involuntary compulsion to pick up that instrument long ago.
  2. They’ve stumbled into their career by accident eg those who find themselves in less sexy roles than we’ve not normally been exposed to, or have eventually found it by a few attempts of trial and error
  3. Their job fits their lifestyle and therefore gives them satisfaction – this is not the actual role, or the nature of it per se, but it provides enough happiness and contentment for the life they want to live
  4. They encapsulate these three points into one whole, contented life that meets the needs of their interests, job satisfaction and lifestyle.

You see, focusing your efforts into finding the best job for you is, I believe, just one element to finding job satisfaction, or satisfaction in general. Would you be less satisfied with your work life if you could still pass the time with your interests when you’re not at work in the form of hobbies, or if you incorporate elements of your interests in your role, giving it your own unique angle? Would you be less satisfied if your job meant you couldn’t get home earlier than most people so you can spend more time with your family? Would you be less satisfied if the itches that aren’t scratched by a good job could be scratched by ways of a side hustle, either paid or for leisure?

You might put blame on a job that didn’t cater to your interests, for example, if you didn’t take the time to fulfill these interests outside of work.

As multi-faceted beings, we have many interests, and the concept that one career can satisfy multiple dimensions of a personality is inaccurate and unnecessarily leads to inevitable dissatisfaction.

In time I believe more and more job roles will take this concept into more consideration, allowing people’s unique set of skills and experience to ‘meat-out’ the role, bringing a competitive edge to the organisation, a workforce that isn’t identified by their job roles or by the job adverts to which they applied. Indeed, the concept of ‘intrapreneur’ is becoming a thing now, where organisations are harnessing employee’s entrepreneurial spirit by giving them free rein on certain aspects of projects and tasks, and reaping the benefits while providing more job satisfaction.

So it questions: is there is a need to find the perfect career if more organisations will adopt this spirit of intrapreneurship meaning that careers aren’t being shaped by a cookie cutter, but by the employee themselves?

In the meantime, I hope that if you agree with my perspective on achieving ‘the perfect career’ it hasn’t left you disheartened – instead I hope it has lessened the weight of the burden in trying to find the perfect career.

This is the first of a 5 part series of posts on discovering how to find job satisfaction. Next week, I will be talking about what to do if you have too many interests to decide on a career.